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May/June 2018: Create and Motivate

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Combining scales and chords Here are three exercises that benefit all  musicians regardless of their preferred style  or approach to making music: 1. Scales 2. Chord drills 3. Scales and chords t ogether The last two columns offered interesting  ways to practice the first two. Now, here's  a way to combine scales and chords into...
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March/April 2018: Create and motivate

The previous issue's column included a list of the benefits of scale practice as well as an approach to "squaring" scales to fit the four- and eight-measure phrase lengths so common in piano literature. Now, here's another way to practice scales for advancing pianists. Assign it to students who have a history of being motivated by extra challenges....
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Create and motivate: scales 101

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Practicing scales combines technique, muscle memory, and theory in one exercise. Yet when I asked a transfer student if she understood why her assignment included scales, her reply surprised me: "No, not really, but they must be important because my previous teachers also insisted I practice them." Sometimes, we, as teachers, forget to explain why ...
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Having fun with scales

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Yeah, right! Is it really possible to have fun playing scales? For many students, practicing scales is a chore. In fact,it is a big chore and seems to be boring and confusing while taking too much time away from practicing pieces. "If my piece does not have a scalar passage, why should I play the scale of this piece's key? That is a waste of time!"...
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Practicing double-thirds scales

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Why study double-thirds scales? Practicing double-thirds scales facilitates the performance of similar double-thirds passages encountered in the piano literature. 1 Routinely practicing the double-thirds major scales readies the pianist for major and minor scale fragments, as well as challenging chromatic double-thirds passages. 2 Some complet...
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Survival of the fittest: A reevaluation of traditional scale and arpeggio fingerings

Fingering holds a foundational place in fine piano technique. In the words of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, "More is lost through poor fingering than can be replaced by all conceivable artistry and good taste." 1  For many pianists, traditional fingerings for scales and arpeggios are chiseled in stone. Codified in C.P.E. Bach's  Essay on the...
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Beyond major and minor: A composer’s understanding of chords and scales

​Major and minor. Together these form a basic polarity in Western music. Major scales and chords are usually characterized as "happy," while minor ones are saddled with the label "sad." After composing, improvising, arranging, and teaching for more than forty years with these musical materials, I have come to a different way of understanding them. ...
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Minor scales: a hug and a kiss, or just a handshake?

During my first ten years of piano study, starting at age five, the term diatonic scale was never taught to me. Nor had I realized that there existed an entity called a natural minor scale, inasmuch as I had been directed to practice only major, melodic minor, and harmonic minor scales as part of my daily practice regimen at the keyboard. Additiona...
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How do you introduce scales?

Richard Chronister, the founder of  Keyboard Companion , made an astute remark to me one time at lunch. "It may be a scale," he mused over a Cobb salad, "but is it technic?" We had been talking about the requirements of one of our state assessment programs, which, like many others, require the student to perform scales in the same keys as...
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Scalin' the chords

​When I was about twelve years of age, my parents took me to a restaurant that featured a live jazz trio. I was amazed to see the pianist playing without written music. Unaware of the awkwardness I might cause by interrupting a performing musician, I approached the stage and asked him how he did it. His succinct reply changed my life. Without missi...
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What are the problems of the thumb and how do you solve them?

Teaching students about the thumb is as important as it is difficult. If the thumb is angled too high, the wrist sticks up. If the thumb joints bend inward, reach is compromised. If the thumb is not used properly in scales and arpeggios, either speed or articulation suffers. Yet, despite all these potential calamities, the thumb is often overl...
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The Piano Magazine is the leading resource for pianists, piano teachers, and piano enthusiasts. We bring you informative, interesting, and inspiring ideas on all aspects of piano teaching, learning, and performing. The official name of Clavier Companion magazine was changed to the Piano Magazine in 2019.

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